Raceway family member is lost
With the second severe storm rolling through Sunday afternoon, the winner's circle celebration had to be moved to the garage area. As it started to come together, even the Pennsylvania 400 winner felt something was not right as he dodged raindrops on his way to the relocated winner's circle.
A bright lightning bolt shot down from the sky behind the bleachers of Pocono Raceway's Turn 3. The brightness lit up the sky and the sound crackled eardrums of that of a ground strike.
That was just one of at least two lighting strikes that killed one fan and sent nine others to hospitals in Allentown and Scranton.
"I am pretty sure I know which one it was," Jeff Gordon said after hearing initial reports of the tragedy. "We were walking down pit road, the umbrellas weren't doing any good, there was a huge, huge crack of lightning. You could tell it was very close."
At first, the rumors followed the numerous ambulances that gathered with their lights on that fans were injured with a lightning strike. Twitter became the initial source of information concerning the tragedy.
Tweeter Kyle Manger tweeted, "two fans just got struck by lightning in the parking lot, one's fate isn't looking good the other might be ok."
Another tweeter named Peter Bowhill tweeted, "saw one dazed but conscious fan on stretcher in parking lot by turn 2."
The official number grew to two and then larger until the official word came down from Pocono spokesman Bob Plebian, who announced that "10 people were affected by the lightning strike."
Five were immediately sent to area hospitals with two in critical condition. The one critical victim who was sent to Pocono Medical Center in East Stroudsburg was dead on arrival.
"Unfortunately, a member of our raceway family here, a fan, has passed away," Brandon Igdalsky, president and CEO of Pocono Raceway said Sunday.
The other critically injured was sent to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown. Three others with moderate and minor injuries were sent to Geisinger Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre and Pocono Medical Center.
Five spectators were treated at the raceway medical center and then transported to area hospitals for further evaluation.
There has not been an update on the names or conditions of any of the injured.
The race started later than its scheduled 1 p.m. start due to a severe storm that drenched fans and the track. After 98 laps of nearly clean racing, the tragic storm forced the halting of the race. Announcements were made to the fans in the grandstands and Plebian stated that warnings were sent out via Twitter to the 22,000 followers at the race track.
"ATTENTION FANS: Be advised, seek shelter as severe lightning and heavy winds are in our area," the tweet said at 4:59 p.m.
Although there were numerous warnings issued, Pocono Raceway is going to look into what warnings were given and when.
"Our heartfelt thoughts and best wishes to those who were injured and our condolences to loved ones of the person who was deceased," Plebian said.
NASCAR released a statement through spokesman David Higdon.
"We are deeply saddened that a fan has died and others were injured by lightning strikes following today's race at Pocono," Higdon said. "Our thoughts are with them as well as all those affected by this unfortunate accident."
Plebian said the first storm may have thinned the crowd out. Many of the 85,000 fans did not return after the first storm, but it will be hard to determine that actual number.
"That's the thing that's going to take away from the victory, is the fact that somebody was affected by (the storm)," Gordon said. "Certainly our thoughts are with them."